Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 9, 1898.djvu/80
They were systematised during a period which may have begun as early as the seventh century, and which had practically ended at the close of the tenth century, into a pseudo-historical account of some half a dozen races which occupied Ireland between the Deluge and the Christian era. Until this century this pseudo- history was accepted in Ireland as accurate in its main outlines, although corrupted by bardic exaggerations, and this view has by no means entirely died away yet. During the present century scholars have come to regard these legends either as a romantic version of the tribal traditions concerning races which may actually have occupied Ireland in pre-historic times, or as the euheme- rised mythology of the pre-Christian Irish. The former view has found more favour among physical anthropologists who have essayed to find in these traditions confirmation of theories built up upon the occurrence in Ireland of differently shaped skulls, associated, apparently, with different stages of culture ; the latter view has recommended itself more to folklorists or comparative mythologists. Mr. Borlase's view is briefly this : these traditions are the reflex of great tribal movements which took place between the middle of the third and the middle of the fifth century of our era, movements of which the scene was the Continent of Europe, and more especially the east central portion, lying between the south-eastern corner of the Baltic and the north-western corner of the Black Sea; they were brought to Ireland by oversea raiders who effected settlements in that country, as their contem- poraries the Saxons and Angles did in Britain, or as the Danes and Norsemen did in the ninth century. To quote his own words : " The conclusion, then, at which I have arrived with regard to the subject matter of the sagas and fragments of sagas contained in the ancient Irish books, is that for the most part it is referable neither to pristine ages of Aryan mythology nor to traditions which occurred in Ireland itself, but that it is largely made up of genuine traditions of events which occurred on the Conti- nent from the third to the sixth century a.d., with some more distant lights, perhaps reaching back to the first and second centuries Such traditions would have been carried to Ire- land partly by contingents of Gaedhelic-speaking people crossing and recrossing the Ictian sea, who, in conjunction with not unre- lated tribes on either side the Elbe, were participating in the barbarian raids upon the Roman Empire, and partly by Teutonic.